Invest In The Arts – Ministry of Culture Edition

Some time ago I came across the China Cultural Industries cultural projects page. The page is part of the China International Cultural Industries Fair website, an organization authorized by the China Ministry of Culture “as a state-level authoritative portal website of China cultural industries, integrates the comprehensive information of the cultural industries, the release and trade of the cultural projects and products.”

If you look at the project listings asking for millions and billions of RMB in investment and are a little wary in light of all the corruption stories we are hearing from China these days, you probably should be.

I created an account to get a closer look at the “View after signing in.” categories of information and it didn’t really illuminate things for me. Information was incomplete or missing, website links didn’t work. From what I could tell, all the information is supplied by the projects themselves. There may not be any vetting to assure their viability. Though some do have official government sanction.

Now all that being said, there isn’t any comparable listing in the U.S. As much as we may want to keep away from solely arguing about the economic value of the arts, having a listing of all the arts and culture related projects in the United States would help illustrate the impact pretty visibly and make arts and culture harder to dismiss.

True, there are lot of arts and culture projects listed on Kickstarter, but no publicly available list that attempts to be comprehensive. Certainly no central list of projects with the imprimatur of a government arts and cultural office at any level. (Okay, I admit there may be some state or county that has such a list and I am merely unaware of it.)

Apropos of my posting last week about art organizations experimenting with different structures and corporate expiration, such a listing would help the process along by making a greater number of people more aware of ways to organize themselves.

It might also attract investment of resources and expertise from much further afield than would otherwise be possible. People might contact the project organizers noting that the it might be better organized under an entirely different structure and provide advice on some aspects of the planning.

Having this type of exposure would require organizers to have a higher level of sophistication than might normally be required. There will be those who might be looking to exploit a project solely for their own gain. In the for-profit world, many companies who receive the support of venture capitalists find themselves so dominated and beholden to the VCs, they barely recognize the company as their own after awhile. Something similar might happen to the cultural organization, the majority of which may no longer be non-profits.

Now that President Obama has signed the JOBS Act which will allow crowdfunding on a larger scale, this situation becomes more viable. (See my discussion of the proposed legislation last December. Good series of articles on the general implications of the JOBS Act as passed for crowdfunding on William Carleton’s site.)

Thanks to this sort of legislation regarding investment opportunities, people would be able to follow up on the project listings with a higher degree of confidence in their legitimacy. There will always be the danger of being scammed. A game being funded on Kickstarter was just outed as a hoax today thanks to the fact checking of some of the claims by the online community.

But as I said, in general, such a listing would be invaluable to the arts and culture community in terms of raising awareness of the scope and impact of the sector’s activities and marshaling support for them.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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